I was thinking about my third grade gym teacher the other day. I haven’t thought about him for years. His name was Mr. Fleck. Back in the mid sixties we had gym class with the boys and girls together. We learned the basics of basketball and softball, ran relay races, and even learned square dancing. I had been on physical activity restriction from my doctor because of taking cortisone. My bones had to be protected from breakage so I spent most of my time sitting on the stage in the gym watching while the boys and girls romped and played. But one day Mr. Fleck turned to me and asked me if I thought I could square dance with the other kids. Thinking back on it, I must have been tapping my toes and giving him some reason to believe I wanted to be dancing rather than watching from the sidelines. I was thrilled to take my place on the gym floor with the other kids.
I proudly joined one of the four dance circles and listened to the instructions carefully. I was so excited to be joining in that I’m sure I must have been grinning from ear to ear. The class learned the steps and how to reach for the hand of our partner as we made our way around the circle. Something went wrong when I reached for the hands of the boys. They refused to take my hand and whispered “cootie” as I passed each one. I suddenly felt so out of place. It was as though by being on the sidelines so long I had gotten moldy and no one wanted to “catch” what I had. After a few minutes the music came to a sudden stop. We all heard the whistle that Mr. Fleck used when he wanted our complete attention. There was complete silence. Suddenly I heard my name in that booming male voice and I wanted to sink into the gym floor. “Dawn, tell me why the boys are not taking your hand!” “I have cooties, Mr. Fleck,” I said with great embarrassment. He asked me to go to the office and wait for him there. I left the gym feeling chilly, like sitting in a wet bathing suit on a cold day. I don’t know what all he said to the class that day, but no boy or girl ever called me “cootie” again. I don’t recall ever hearing any more about the situation. I don’t even remember how I got back to class. But I did feel differently about Mr. Fleck. I wasn’t afraid of his whistle after that. I was blessed. I had a Mr. Fleck to come to my rescue. I know what it feels like to have someone stand up for me and plead my cause. I know what it is to believe for a little while that I was unworthy until someone stood up for me as though I really had value. I wonder how many children came to believe they had cooties but had no Mr. Fleck in their lives to tell them otherwise.
Yesterday, when I wrote about being in the presence of the Lord one day, I had a fleeting thought, “Am I worthy?” Then I remembered that there is One who will speak for me. There is One who has claimed me for His own and defends me. I have received the gift of salvation from Jesus, Who gave His life for me. He will speak on my behalf, unworthy as I am, and proclaim to His Father that I am His. I’ve been washed by the blood shed for me on Calvary, and in His presence I will not need to hang my head in shame. I don’t know whatever happened to Mr. Fleck. But I do know that Jesus is alive and active in this world, looking for others to defend, to embrace and welcome home. To be free of being called “cootie” was terrific. To be free from my sin and shame is the greatest gift I have ever been given. Thank You, Lord!